The Continuing Evolution of People-Based Marketing

Before “people-based marketing” was introduced at Advertising Week in 2014, the classic strategy for marketers was to blast out as many copies of a single message as possible in order to reach the highest number of people.

With the advent of this more personal approach, however, the strategy has shifted to a more targeted form of marketing-- making sure a message is sent to the right individuals. The quality-over-quantity approach to advertising comes as a natural reaction to both the emerging technology that facilitates it, and the preference shown by today’s consumers to feel personally engaged. 

Since the earlier forms of digital marketing relied on reducing humans to numbers, segments, and vaguely-defined profiles, the tricky part for marketers is finding better ways to understand the “people” in “people-based marketing.” Individuals are complex, and forming an accurate impression requires looking into the layers that make up real people. 

The most successful way to do this is to take a hierarchical approach. Associate individuals to their personal devices, and then categorize those consumers into a household: doing so provides a more nuanced map of the real world, has broader applications in marketing and user experiences and is more future-proof as the basis for enterprise customer relationship management.


Multiple Resolution

The data gathered as part of a people-based marketing strategy has multiple resolutions, offering different degrees of detail and context. When we attempt to understand the identity of our target, we must take these degrees into account.

For example, postal addresses, IP addresses and some CRM and loyalty data won’t be unique to individuals or their devices and should live at the household level. Likewise, smart TVs and OTT boxes are most often shared by everyone in the household. That’s not to say household data isn’t valuable—quite the opposite. Once individuals are associated with those households, the data can be applied top-down using that hierarchy.

In contrast, phone numbers and email addresses are user-based, and most smartphones also remain in the hands of a singular user. A household can share a certain number of devices and CRM data while retaining unique emails and mobile devices, allowing us to gain a bottom-up perspective as well. Doing so means discovering much deeper audience segmentation. 

An understanding of multi-resolution identity enables brands to target households with more than three Apple devices, for example, or reach homes that have wireless service from multiple providers.

Household data is incredibly useful, but being able to track users within the household allows for multilevel extension. A brand with a single device ID or piece of consumer data could reach each consumer individually across all devices with relevant offers. 

The idea of multi-resolution, people-based marketing is a well-established one in the offline world. Shopper loyalty data is a prime example of how multi-resolution identity can be used in marketing: discount and club cards are usually tied to a single person’s name and phone number, but are used by everyone in the household. 

Connecting online and offline

Understanding the multiple resolutions that make up real people is critical for effectively maximizing the impact of people-based marketing. And being able to onboard different pieces of data at the proper resolution will be the cornerstone of this strategy.

Household targeting and extension, including frequency capping at the device-, user- and household- levels, allows for expanded use of identity. For instance, grocery chains rarely have access to digital identifiers-- but if they adopted multi-resolution identity, like Safeway’s “Just 4 U” coupon app, they can tie their consumer-based information to specific people within a household as well as to the devices owned by those family members. Doing so would allow them to target their advertising more effectively the household as a unit as well as the individuals. 

Identity providers looking to tackle people-based marketing could allow customers to upload their own identifiers and associate them with households, consumers or devices-- email, postal addresses, phone numbers, and online reach data could be applied to such records. An independent provider of people-based identity at multiple resolutions would help brands fill in the data in a manner that maps to the real world, bridging knowledge gaps for marketers. With developments in AI and machine learning, alongside opportunities for consumers to offer up their own individual identifiers, the data required for people-based marketing will be easier to come by. There are known knowns in marketing, such as customer records, as well as known unknowns, like the devices customers own or who belongs to which household. People-based marketing allows us to cut down on the known unknowns, providing a better chance of ensuring persistent, cross-device recognition for a single view of the consumer. 


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TrendsRyan Connolly